Screen Savor: Soaked in emotion

Waves Via Facebook

Let’s face it, Florida gets a bad rap. Between the “Florida man” stories on the nightly news, the relocation of Trump to the state (making him just another “Florida man” now), and the early December 2019 gun violence in Pensacola and Coral Gables, the Sunshine State’s radiance is under attack.

At least some good movies have been made here in the latter half of the 2010s. The Oscar-winning “Moonlight” (2016) and the Oscar-nominated “The Florida Project” (2017) are a couple of recent examples. 

Writer/director Trey Edward Shults’ “Waves” (A24) is the latest.

Essentially a story of downward spirals and the family caught in the whirlpool that is created, “Waves” sweeps us out to sea before safely returning us, drained, to the shore.

High school wrestler Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is golden, and not just because of his bleached blonde hair. A good student with a loving and caring family – kid sister Emily (Taylor Russell), driven father Ronald (Sterling K. Brown) and stepmother Catharine (Renée Elise Goldsberry) – and a wonderful girlfriend named Alexis (Alexa Demie), Tyler seemingly has it all. 

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One thing Tyler has that only he and his doctor know about is a serious shoulder injury that could potentially threaten a college wrestling scholarship for which he has been preparing for most of his young life. Refusing to take care of his deteriorating physical situation, self-medicating with his father’s oxycodone, Tyler’s condition worsens during a wrestling match and he is officially out of commission. 

Adding to the stress in his life, Alexis tells him that she is pregnant (why are teenagers still having unprotected sex?) and after a horrible experience at a clinic decides against having an abortion. This sets off a series of terrible and life-altering events that results in a death and a life sentence in prison for Tyler.

As unpredictable as water, “Waves” changes course. The focus shifts as we see the toll that Tyler’s conviction has on his parents. Then the spotlight swings again and Emily becomes the protagonist. We watch as she transforms from a quiet and socially awkward girl into an assured and mature young woman.

Feeling ostracized at school, Emily keeps to herself. An interaction with Luke (the ubiquitous Lucas Hedges), who was also on the wrestling team with Tyler becomes the impetus for her personal reinvention. They begin to date and Emily discovers many new aspects of herself. The depiction of the relationship is one of the many elements of “Waves” that gives it its authenticity.

The combination of Shults’ writing and directing and the performances of the cast, both young (Harrison, Russell, Hedges and Demie) and older (Brown and Goldsberry) makes “Waves” exceptional and genuine. For an unforgettable movie experience, let “Waves” wash over you.

Rating: A-


Emily riding bicycle

Young couple in car

High school wrestlers

English class Carpe diet


Home from school

Talks father and stepmother

Sees sister


Sending shirtless selfies to girl

At beach

At party

Driving in Hollywood


Church service

Falling asleep - father notices

Preaching about love

Breakfast at diner w family

Playful talk

Son and father work out

Father works in construction/contracting

Son plays piano, too

Dinner with Alexis’ family

Alexis bleaches his hair

He takes father’s oxycodone from medicine chest

Wrestling meet - wins


Alexis period late

Extreme damage done to his shoulder

Surgery recommended

Physical activity must be halted

May never fully recover

Tyler also drinks

Masturbates to Porn

Depressed, crying in overflowing bathtub

Hurts another wrestler in practice (Hedges)

Father keeps pushing him

Father thinks Tyler has attitude

Not afforded the luxury of being average - why father pushes him

Tyler hurt during meet

Father no help

Tyler hears parents arguing

Alexis call him

At beach - they talk about her being pregnant


At clinic - protestors upset Alexis

Security officer tells people in waiting room not to deal with protestors

Alexis doesn’t go through with abortion

Seniors in HS shouldn’t be having a baby

They fight

Taking oxy, smoking pot

Very high

Vomiting at home

Sister helps him

Ty and Alex apologize via text

Alex wants to keep baby

He freaks

She blocks him

He demolishes his room

Downward spiral


Grounded Ty at home drugging and drinking

Mother tries to stop drunk Tyler from leaving house

Confronts father and mother

Physical altercation

Tyler takes fathers car

Tyler shows up at post-prom party

Drinks more

Tyler confronts Alexis

They physically fight

She falls and hits her head on concrete floor

Girl sees them and screams

Tyler runs

Tyler home

Alexis’ parents called

Tyler arrested

Alexis dies

Emily in car w parents

Observing their behavior

Tyler convicted and sentenced to life

Eligible for parole after 30 years

Emily ostracized at school

Story becomes about Emily

Luke talks to Emily

Asks her to go out to eat with him

They “insta-stalked” each other before getting together

Emily has no Insta footprint because of cruel things posted about Ty

Emily and Luke dating

She is transformed

Emily and Luke go north to swim w manatees

Luke buys alcohol

They go to Weeki Wachee

Parents’ marriage falling apart

In crisis

Catherine blames him for pushing Tyler

Wants to grieve in her way

She can’t look at him and not think of Tyler

Emily and Luke do X

They have sex

Emily with father

Father confides in her about marriage trouble

Emily feels guilt

Thinks she could have saved Alexis

She saw Tyler at the party before he assaulted Alexis

They bond over this

Emily and Luke go to see Luke’s dying father in Missouri 

Seeing Luke comfort his father reminds Emily of her comforting Ty

Father dies

Emily texts Catherine to say she’s ok

Catherine goes to see Ty

Catherine and father work it out